citrus-avocado salad photo by carmen troesser

6 salad recipes that definitely don't suck

If you see those ready-to-serve salads while strolling the produce aisle, keep on walking. There’s never a reason to buy bottled dressing. These six stunning salads are full of color, texture and filling flavors that won’t disappoint on the dinner table, in the break room or at the potluck. Easy and foolproof doesn’t have to be so boring.

Citrus-Avocado Salad 

This citrus salad belongs in your year-round bag of tricks – it’s a colorful showstopper on a winter table and equally delightful as a cool summer side.
4 servings

1 blood orange
1 grapefruit
1 navel or cara cara orange
½ cup matchstick-cut jicama 
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
4 cups chopped lettuce like romaine, spinach, arugula or mixed greens 
Honey-Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows) 
1 large avocado, cubed
¼ cup toasted pepitas

• Using a sharp knife, remove the peels and pith from the blood orange, grapefruit and navel orange. Slice the fruit into ¼-inch rounds, reserving any juice for use in the vinaigrette.

• In a large bowl, combine the blood orange, grapefruit, navel orange, jicama and red onion and gently toss with honey-lime vinaigrette to taste. Add the lettuce and toss, then fold in the avocado. 

• Top with toasted pepitas and serve immediately.

Honey-Lime Vinaigrette
About 1/3 cup

3 Tbsp. lime juice and any reserved citrus juice 
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. minced shallot
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ cup neutral oil

• Whisk together the lime and citrus juices, cumin, honey, shallot and cayenne. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified.

spring roll salad // photo by carmen troesser

Spring Roll Salad
This Asian-inspired salad is a triple threat: super crunchy, spicy and pretty on a plate.
2 main servings; 4 side servings

1 2-oz. package bean thread or vermicelli rice noodles
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
3 cups shredded napa cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced, peeled English cucumber
½ cup chopped peanuts
½ cup shredded carrot
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped mint
Wasabi Dressing (recipe follows)

• Cook rice noodles according to package directions and drain. With scissors, cut the noodles into 3- to 4-inch pieces.

• In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the sesame oil. Add the napa cabbage, cucumber, peanuts, carrot, cilantro, mint and wasabi dressing to taste and toss.

Wasabi Dressing
If wasabi packs too much punch, try replacing it with local hot sauce Sriracha Granada for big flavor and less sting.
About 1/3 cup

3½ Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1½ Tbsp. wasabi paste
1½ tsp. sugar
½ tsp. soy sauce
¼ cup neutral oil

• Whisk together the vinegar, wasabi, sugar and soy sauce. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Roasted Carrot and Sprout Salad
The combination of sweet, tender roasted carrots with the cruciferous crunch of shaved Brussels sprouts, chewy dried cranberries and toasted nuts makes this salad more than a side dish.
2 main servings; 4 side servings

5 Tbsp. neutral oil, divided
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. maple syrup
¼ tsp. minced shallot
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and trimmed
20 oz. (about 3 cups) shaved Brussels sprouts
1 cup sunflower or alfalfa sprouts
½ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

• In a small jar, combine 3 tablespoons oil, the lemon juice, orange juice, vinegar, maple syrup, shallot, salt and pepper. Seal and shake to combine. Set aside.

• If the carrots are small and thin, leave whole. If the carrots are large, cut into 2-inch pieces on a bias.

• Toss the carrots in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through.

• Drizzle about 3 tablespoons reserved dressing over the carrots and toss to coat.

• In a large bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts, sunflower sprouts, hazelnuts, cranberries and ¼ cup dressing. Transfer the salad to a serving platter and top with the carrots. Serve at room temperature.

Hold the EVOO // While a go-to cooking oil, raw olive oil can be sharp or have an acrid aftertaste. When it comes to salads, try using a neutral oil or a 1-to-1 ratio of olive oil and a neutral oil like vegetable, avocado, sunflower or grapeseed to keep your oil from overpowering other flavors in the dressing.

farro salad with giardiniera // photo by carmen troesser

Farro Salad with Giardiniera
This workhorse salad earns the title of entree. It’s filling enough to get you through the day after lunch without putting you to sleep and will be met by applause from every vegetarian at the potluck.
4 main servings; 8 side servings

¼ cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. giardiniera liquid
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
4 cups water
1 cup farro
1 cup giardiniera
1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup chopped basil
¼ cup shaved Parmesan, for garnish

• Combine the olive oil, giardiniera liquid, Parmesan and oregano in a jar and shake vigorously to combine. Taste and season with salt and sugar if needed. Set aside.

• In a medium saucepan, combine the water and farro. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, then transfer to a large bowl to cool.

• Toss the farro with 3 tablespoons reserved dressing. Add the giardiniera, beans, tomatoes, parsley, basil and 3 tablespoons dressing. Gently toss to combine, taste and add additional dressing if desired. Top with the Parmesan and serve at room temperature.

Deconstructed Nicoise 

So fancy, so formal, so French! We prefer our salad nicoise composed in rows of ingredients, making it easy for each guest to build their own plate, but don’t let that keep you from throwing everything in a bowl if you prefer to toss.
4 main servings; 8 side servings

4 to 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
Kosher salt, to taste
Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 lb. thin green beans or haricots verts, trimmed
4 eggs
4 cups mixed arugula and butter lettuce
2 5.5-oz. cans Italian or Spanish tuna packed in oil, drained
½ lb. ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
4 to 6 radishes, trimmed and quartered
¾ cup pitted nicoise or Kalamata olives
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves

• Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water and add salt. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer and cook until fork tender, about 5 minutes. 

• Drain the potatoes and transfer to a medium bowl. Toss with about 2 tablespoons lemon-caper vinaigrette and set aside. 

• Refill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath. 

• Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until bright green, about 3 minutes, then transfer to the ice bath. Pat the beans dry and transfer to a medium bowl. Toss with about 2 tablespoons lemon-caper vinaigrette and set aside. 

• Place the eggs in the saucepan and cover with about 1 inch cold water. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, then cover, remove from heat and let rest 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, then rinse and peel under cold running water. Quarter the eggs and set aside. 

• To assemble the salad, arrange the potatoes, green beans, eggs, lettuce, tuna, tomatoes, radishes, olives and basil in rows on a serving platter. Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with lemon-caper vinaigrette to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette
About 1/3 cup

¼ cup neutral oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped capers
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. finely grated shallot
1 tsp. sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Combine all ingredients in a jar, seal and shake vigorously to combine.

grilled kale salad // photo by carmen troesser

Grilled Kale Salad
You’ve massaged it, chopped it, baked it into chips – now it’s time to grill. Add a little smoke, some crunchy radishes and pistachios in a creamy, herbaceous dressing and once again kale reigns. Pro tip: Grill bread to serve on the side.
2 main servings; 4 side servings

1 bunch kale (about ½ lb.), rinsed and dried
3 Tbsp. neutral oil
Kosher salt, to taste
3 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped, raw pistachios
¼ cup shredded carrot
Creamy Kale Salad Dressing (recipe follows)

• Prepare a grill for high, direct heat. 

• Toss the kale with the oil and a generous pinch of salt, making sure both sides of the leaves are coated. 

• Working in batches, grill the kale on both sides until crispy, about 30 to 45 seconds. Use a sharp knife to remove the tough rib of each kale leaf and roughly chop. Toss the kale with the radishes, pistachios and carrot, and drizzle the salad with dressing. Serve immediately.

Creamy Kale Salad Dressing
About 1¼ cups

3 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2½ Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. neutral oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp. minced herbs (parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Place the shallot and vinegar plus a pinch of salt in a jar with a lid. Let sit 30 minutes. 

• Add the yogurt, lemon juice, oil and sugar, cover and shake to combine. Add the herbs and shake again, adding additional oil to thin, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate.

Dee Ryan is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine. 

Tags : Recipes